Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thoughts on the new Liberal/Justin Trudeau ads

As mentioned earlier, the Liberal Party of Canada this morning released two new ads featuring Justin Trudeau that will be running on television and online, one in English and one in French (you can donate here to help keep them on the air). Both are similar in tone, although only the English one responds directly to the personally negative Conservative ad campaign.

We needed to respond

Content aside, I’m pleased that we've responded at all. And we had to, for several reasons.

For one, Liberals have been asked several times in recent years to donate in order to respond to Conservative attack ads. When ads were ran against Bob Rae, the party asked for money for a response; Liberals donated, the party never responded. At the time I outlined why a response would be problematic, but those Liberals that donated certainly expected one. We also voted at the last biennial to create a “Strong Start Fund” to give the next leader a coffer to allow him or her to respond to the inevitable Conservative attacks, and have been asked to donate to it regularly. And Liberals responded to another donation request after the Conservative ads launched. So just to keep faith with Liberal donors, a response was mandatory.

And secondly, Liberals are jumpy after having watched two leaders be savaged by Conservative attack ads with little meaningful response from the party. While we can debate for hours just what impact the ad campaigns had on the electoral fortunes of our last two leaders, the psychological impact on Liberals has been clear. So for our own sanity, a response was necessary.

The ads themselves

The contrast between the Conservative and Liberal ads is jarring, and deliberately so. The English ad makes the contrast obvious by directly pivoting off the Conservative attack, and offering a different style, tone and approach, and a different choice for Canadians.

Based on Twitter reaction, those in the Ottawa bubble have been thrown for a bit of a loop. They've been conditioned to expect cheap sound effects, sarcastic voice-overs and personal attacks. They don’t know what to make of this positive tone, this lack of flash and whiz-bang, just a leader talking directly to Canadians, a son and a father just asking for a chance. It’s different than what they’re used to.

The bubble crowd are not the target audience though. Canadians are, the Canadians who don’t watch question period every afternoon or PowerPlay every evening. The same people the Conservatives are targeting with their ads.

We all know that attack ads can be effective, so I like the deliberate mocking of the Conservative ads – Canadians can agree you’re right, those ads are ridiculous, we do deserve better. The classroom setting says I’m not going to apologize for being a teacher, and will remind Canadians of positive school memories – most of us liked our teachers. For many of us, they were role models and mentors.

Some will say the Liberals should have fought fire with fire. I think those people would be wrong. Let’s remember what this is about: defining Justin Trudeau. I wrote last week about voter impression polling numbers, which showed many Canadians have already formed an impression of Trudeau, and one that’s largely positive. The Conservatives want to reach those that haven’t made up their minds yet with a negative message – he’s in over his head. The Liberals want to reach those same people with a positive message – I’m a regular guy, a family man like you, who loves his country and just wants a chance to serve.

Both sides have now made their cases effectively, and we’ll watch in the weeks and months ahead to see how Canadians respond. And Canadians will watch to see how the leaders perform. Impressions will be formed, and solidified.

It will be some time be know how effective these respective campaigns will be. The Liberals, though, have finally gotten off the bench.

Game on.

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Michael said...

Every woman I know who has seen these ads have melted. Remember when Obama sang? Same effect!

Maudie Bones said...

Have read the classroom used for this ad was from the Degrassi TV set.
A subtle touch that will likely appeal to the Degrassi generation!

rockfish said...

At first glance, I was underwhelmed. The slight disdain shown after the Con clip , on JT's face, seemed contrived.
I've come around a bit but still feel it isn't strong enough. I know what he's trying to present, but a static shot of him in the classroom reminds me too much of Ignatieff in the woods - and I liked those ads more....
And then there's a visceral wish inside that wants to see fire fought with fire. But it doesn't require getting in the same mud. How about forceful if short jabs at Harper's fiscal, moral and ethical issues? Well, now it would become a weekly TV show, maybe called The Bomb Boys...